Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the latest dollop of hypocrisy and deceit to be issued on behalf of the Tory Mayor
Jason Perry, Croydon’s part-time Mayor, has spent even more public money to burnish his own reputation, this time having “action shots” taken by a council photographer showing him at work in Norbury last week alongside a new graffiti response team in Norbury last week.
But what Mayor Perry and the council’s propaganda department have failed to make clear is that the money being spent on re-introducing a rapid-response graffiti team was budgeted for more than four months ago by the previous Labour administration, in an annual budget that the then Councillor Perry and his Town Hall Tory colleagues all voted against.
No one from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly was prepared to answer Inside Croydon’s questions today about how FM Conway, the highways maintenance company, came to be appointed for this council work, given that strict competitive tendering processes can usually take months to complete properly.
The axing of the council’s own small, in-house team of graffiti-busters is an object lesson in the practice of how local councils can be penny-wise and pound foolish…
In the past, Croydon’s team managed to cover their costs, with a contract with Tram Operations Ltd to keep the Tramlink network all spruced up and clear of tags and other dubious spray-paint messaging.
But after the November 2020 financial collapse of the council, the graffiti team was disbanded, in a knee-jerk, panicked immediate response to cut costs, in an ill-advised decision made by those left to pick up the pieces after the years of mismanagement by the likes of Tony Newman and Jo Negrini.
The decision to axe the graffiti response team is believed to have been recommended by Steve Iles, who remains a senior figure at the council, with a new-ish job title of “director sustainable communities”.
So all the income from TOL has been lost, and instead multi-million-pound operators Conway are doing the graffiti team’s work – but now at a net cost to Croydon’s Council Tax-payers in a piece of back-door privatisation.
Katharine Street sources suggest that Conway’s existing highways maintenance contract with Croydon included costed provision for graffiti cleaning, which means that having got rid of some valued staff members, Iles has been able to spend more council money on an outsourced deal instead.
If the lovingly-taken photographs of the Mayor are anything to go by, the contractors are at least getting the job done, although even the council admits that the past 18 months have seen quite a backlog of graffiti-cleaning work build up.
So while part-time Perry “delivers on his pledge to clean up Croydon”, using the previous Labour council’s budgets to do so, it could be quite some time before everything is back to an acceptable state – unless, of course, Perry has also agreed extra work, and extra payments, for Conways to deal with what he describes as “a top priority”.
Mayor Perry, whose own office at the Town Hall only answers the phones for four hours on weekdays, isn’t making it any easier for the public to report graffiti, either.
The council still want the public to use their Crap App – the “Love Clean Streets” piece of smartphone tech that after nearly 10 years of costly development and updates still does not have a reporting category for missed bin collections (you can draw your own conclusions why).
Reports on the Love Clean Streets app of graffiti can only be made if accompanied by a photograph of the offending daubs. “This is easy to do via the app or the council website,” the council claims, assuming that all its residents have ready access to smart phones or an internet connection.
“The council has already received over 200 graffiti reports, and the service is working to clear the backlog as quickly as possible. Due to the anticipated initial volume increase, new reports could take longer than usual to be cleaned but the council is committed to increasing response times as quickly as possible,” according to the propaganda department.
“Graffiti remains an illegal environmental crime, and the council can issue fixed penalty notices of £80 to anyone caught doing graffiti.”
Note that: “caught doing graffiti”. The council does not say when they last caught anyone “doing graffiti” and issued them with a FPN.
In the middle of a cost of living crisis, with food bank use at record levels and the curse of covid not entirely dealt with, it might just be that few Croydon residents truly believe, as Mayor Perry seems to do, that graffiti removal is “a top priority”. But then, when Perry was elected in May, he received the votes of only 13per cent of the electorate.
“Expanding and improving the graffiti removal service is vital to keeping our parks, high streets and public spaces looking clean and attractive,” part-time Perry was quoted as saying by the council propagandists who now do his bidding.
“There is still work to be done to clean up Croydon, but we are determined to continue making the changes that need to happen and listening to residents so that our communities and businesses can thrive.”
Perhaps the bitterest irony in this latest piece of deceit and hypocrisy from the £81,000 per year Mayor is that, although he and Croydon’s Tories voted against the 2022-2023 council budget that included spending on graffiti removal, in 2019 and 2020, they had voted in favour of those years’ Labour budgets – the very budgets which ultimately led to the borough’s bankruptcy.
Read more: Mayor bids for £20m funding with old and failed projects
Read more: Appeal to audit committee chair to demand missing reports
Read more: Part-time Mayor Perry is only ‘listening’ four hours a day
Read more: Tory Perry wins historic Mayor election by less than 600 votes
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Does part-time Perry think that popularity in politics is achieved by endless publicity photographs taken by his own personal full time photographer. He should have a word with his beloved leader.
was the in-house team really wonderful? If so, it was the only in-house anything that was.
The conclusion I drew from why this doesn’t allow you to report missed bin collections is because the online system provided by Veolia isn’t compatible with the generic app that’s just “skinned” by Croydon with their “Don’t mess with..” branding when you choose Croydon as your local authority.
FM Conway, Veolia, Skanska and Axis Croydon all have graffiti removal in their contracts and have had this for many years but graffiti removal was always left to the ERT team to deal with and at no point did senior management take money away from the contractors for not dealing with this.
If they had the ERT staff would have been self funding and making money for the borough. What people don’t realise is all the extra work the team did to save council departments spending out large sums of money to contractors. 500k ? which is more than the team cost to run and a worse job, what a joke.
This should of gone out to tender seeing that they have professional companies on the council preferred contractor list that deal with graffiti removal not some road repair / pothole company.
This is all about lining the pockets of the big boys and not the local SME’s.